3rd Rail Press_Kunira’s Lament Chapter 7_17Feb2020

Kujira’s Lament©
An Original Work of Fiction
By David G. Yurth

Draft: Nov. 18, 2012
© 2012 David G. Yurth
All Rights Reserved Holladay, Utah USA


Eleven days after the Sküvoy-19 were discovered lying in the village square, at 2:40 in the afternoon Arne Nielson, the village whale spotter, called Thummus Jensen, the grind-master, on his ship-to-shore radio. He had spotted a small pod of pilot whales, maybe 10 – 12 animals, rounding the leeward point of the island, heading towards the village. They would be within range in less than an hour by all reckoning.

The machinery of the grind automatically whirled into motion. Thum Jensen sent out the alarm by blowing three long hard blasts on the ram’s horn that had been used to announce the coming of the whales for hundreds of years. No one really knew how old the horn was. All they knew was that when they heard that sound it was time to fly into action.

Everyone knew what that sound meant. Whales were coming. Within 20 minutes the boats were manned. Engines were running. Lines and drag-hooks were being hauled down to the beach. Dogs barked. Children began to yell and run and scream, mirroring the adrenaline-driven excitement of the moment.

Bogi Anderrson and his helper, a 14-year-old man-child named Dens, began putting their boat in motion. With careful unhurried certainty they stowed the loose gear, belayed the lines, hauled up the anchor and started the engine. Very little was said between them. They knew this routine well enough to do it in their sleep.

Thirty minutes from the call the procession of fishing boats headed out the narrow mouth of the harbor towards the gathering point about two miles away. As he steered the boat across the water, Bogi began to tremble. He barely noticed it at first, just a slight tremor in the side of his neck. It became increasingly annoying after a few moments, like a cramp that starts in the calf muscle after standing in one place for too long. He began to perspire despite the fact that the air was cool almost to chilling. He noticed the distinct sensation of his heartbeat pounding through veins in his neck.

“You okay, Bogi?” the boy asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I feel kind of strange.”

“Your face is awful red. Is something wrong?”

Bogi knew something was definitely not right but had no idea what was happening to him. He let go of the wheel and looked at his hands. Both of them could plainly see that his hands were shaking uncontrollably.

“Hold your hands out,” Bogi said. “Let me see them.”

Dens brought his hands forward, turned them palms up and then palms down. They were not trembling. Close by, another boat hailed them as it pulled alongside.

“Bogi, you okay?” The man was leaning out over the gunwale, a look of concern on his face.

“Yeah, Sure. No problems here,” he said, as he waved the man off and feigned a smile. He pointed his finger towards the gathering point as if to instruct the others to get into position.

Low lying clouds covered the sky, scooting briskly across the sea. Bursts of sunlight filtered through, caressing the tops of the waves with a kaleidoscope of dancing colors. It was all in motion, moving, surging, undulating to the ancient rhythms of the open ocean. Bogi lived for these moments. They brought him closer to God.

The pod was sighted just 300 yards from the chorus of fishing boats. The men who piloted them needed no one to tell them what to do. In less time than it takes for a bus to stop and pick up new passengers, the boats had fanned out to form a skirmish line half a mile long. The arcing curve formed by the boats placed the pod between them and the mouth of the bay.

Thum Jensen’s boat was positioned in the center of the arc. Bogi Anderrson took up his traditional position on the far left. For a few minutes they waited patiently, knowing what was about to happen. When the pod had moved into the geometric center of the arc formed by the boats, Thum Jensen sounded his air horn. Instantly, the engines of all 25 boats gunned to life. The ends of the arc began to move behind the pod to cut off their path of escape.

Bogi Anderrson forgot about the tremor in his neck. The roar of the engine, the rumbling of the boat under his feet, the pitched acceleration of the boat up and down across the waves, the sensation of wind and water cool and wet blowing past his face and grasping at his sleeves, all these sensations cascaded into his consciousness in an instant. This was how it began. The hunt was on.

The whales reacted instantaneously, turning away from the deafening cacophony that suddenly surrounded them. At first in their panic and confusion some of them swam directly into the path of the on-coming boats. They signaled to each other but couldn’t distinguish their own sounds from the horrendous wall of noise that flooded over them. Confused and terrified out of their wits, the whales broached to the surface and tried to escape by out-running the boats across the top of the water. They swam away from the assault and towards the shore in a mad scramble for freedom, not aware in their panic that they could have easily escaped by simply diving beneath the boats and swimming away.

Bogi was standing behind the wheelhouse, steering the boat with one hand and bracing himself with the other so he could see what was happening ahead of him. As his boat crested another wave, sea spray fanned his face and doused the boy standing next to him. Bogi turned to see Dens smiling, craning to see the spectacle unfold before them. They were rapidly approaching the opening to the bay where the slope of the island narrowed to form a gateway. The whales were running fast before them, jumping out of the water, flailing madly in their frantic effort to avoid the inevitable. The flotilla of fishing boats had closed ranks so that there was no way the whales could escape around either end. Bogi could see the crowd gathered on the beach beyond the bay, eagerly anticipating the grind. The fate of the pilot whales was all but sealed.

One hundred yards from the gateway, in an instant, as if on cue, the engines of all 25 boats simply stopped. Bogi’s boat slowed so suddenly that he crashed full length into the back of the wheelhouse, knocking the wind out of him. Dens fell forward on top of him, stepping as he did on Bogi’s left foot, snapping it at the ankle. The pain that shot up Bogi’s leg was like nothing he had ever felt before.

He hauled himself up by grasping the wheel and standing on his right leg. Dens helped, unaware of what had happened. Bogi’s face went white in the moment, shock and pain draining the color away. He looked out to the left and then to the right and saw that all the boats had stopped. They were all adrift, in danger of being slammed against the walls of the gateway by the gathering sea. Some were still moving swiftly toward the cliffs, propelled by forward momentum. The sound of roaring engines had evaporated to create a vacuum of deafening silence. After a moment, men’s voices could be heard cursing and yelling. Starter motors were grinding and clawing at the engines, commanding them to start but nothing happened. No engines ran again.

Bogi Anderrson looked up at the sky. He saw clouds and sun light streaming down. For a moment he thought he saw something else, a quick flash of light reflected from a perfectly rounded curve, just behind the edge of a cloud. Before his eyes could focus on it, it was gone. Somewhere in the back of his mind a point of recognition clicked into place. He had seen it before. Somewhere. Some time. He couldn’t quite remember but he knew with undeniable certainty that he had seen it before. In that moment he also realized that the life he had grown to love was coming to an end.

Bogi Anderrson died so suddenly he didn’t know he was dead. As his lifeless body crumpled to the deck, the man-child next to him was struck speechless. It was happening again.